INTERVIEW: SL Walkinshaw | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Jade Sweeting

As one half of free-form instrumentalists Ten Sticks, Newcastle musician Stuart Walkinshaw has form in supplying rich, textured slices of sonic adventure. It’s curious, then, that it’s largely through circumstance that we’re being treated to Tape/String, an exquisite (and some may say overdue) solo debut which once more witnesses this fertile creative brain span fresh territory.

“A solo project isn’t something I’d ever planned on doing,” he admits. “I’ve had ideas clogging up hard drives for decades, but it’s only recently that I’ve began sharing things with a close group of friends. Their feedback – that it sounded like me, or something I’d do – was a bit of a light-switch moment.”

Composed using an amalgamation of experimental tape loops, acoustic and synthetic stringed instruments and naturalistic field recordings, the album spawned from his friends’ encouragement is a beguiling and tranquil source of ambient reverie, akin to pensive works by William Basinski, Christian Fennesz and Kieran Hebden. Radiating soothing, medicinal qualities with nigh on crystalline clarity, it’s little wonder its creation likewise proved therapeutic for the artist himself.

“It became a way of occupying my time. I found it quite escapist – the physical process of cutting lengths of tape, sticking them together and reassembling them in cassette shells, then playing around and improvising over those loops,” Stuart recalls. Without going down the heavy academic route, I feel there’s a parallel between loops and our ruminating thoughts. You can take a moment to reflect, allow your mind wander and see where it takes you, but ultimately you’re still drawn back to the safety of that original thought. It’s something you can convey with this type of music which perhaps can’t quite be expressed through lyrics.”

I feel there’s a parallel between loops and our ruminating thoughts. You can take a moment to reflect, allow your mind wander and see where it takes you

Stuart explains he’s consciously refraining from referring to this as a ‘lockdown album’. “It was more about finding a space outside of this moment,” he insists. “I wanted short meditations as opposed to 20-minute opuses; pieces you can lose yourself within, not so much blasting through imaginary universes as meandering through your back garden – which is bliss when everybody in the world is going completely nuts.”

While some of Tape/String’s numbers sport geographical context via titles such as ‘Love Theme’ From Jesmond Dene, Tokyo and Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, others like Metachrist and Lights Out draw sounds from a far more personal source.

“When I moved out of my parents’ house, I left behind a lot of shit I didn’t want. One day my Mum turned up on my doorstep with my infamous ‘box of wires’ – random cables, broken kit, old guitar pedals…stuff like that – and I found that it had accumulated two of those old top-loading cassette recorders which had belonged to my grandparents.” To Stuart’s delight, one of these recorders contained a priceless archive; church readings, voice notes, background noise – and even a record of his own fledgling dabblings in sound.

That was really spooky, it was probably my first ever experience with recording!” He muses. “Both Grandparents have passed away since. My Grandad died when I was very young, but my Nana was a big part of my life. I used a lot of that backlog of their voices for Ten Sticks stuff. Nobody ever knew what they were, but for me they were something really personal, and now I’ve slipped some samples in here too.”

SL Walkinshaw releases Tape/String on 9th April via Singing Light Music


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